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Theatre in Seoul

Seoul - South Korea's Theatre and Dance capital...

When thinking about cruises to South Korea, most people tend to be aware that this tiny peninsula, cut off from the rest of Asia by their hostile neighbours in the North, is a burgeoning technology hub experiencing phenomenal economic growth. What a lot of people are less aware of however is that Korea is also a cultural feast for visitors with a wealth of both traditional and progressive performances to enjoy.

The Korean tourism industry is still in a relative infancy, but more and more cruise ships are beginning to stop here. The chances are that you will either dock in the southern port town of Busan, the countries second largest city with a wealth of beaches, bars and restaurants to enjoy, or you will arrive at Incheon, the gateway to the capital city of Seoul. There are fantastic opportunities to catch some of the countries impressive cultural delights in either city, but if you’re looking for a demonstration of the diversity of the arts scene in South Korea, a visit to Seoul is crucial.

Many people in Seoul speak good English, so navigating your way around shouldn’t be too hard. Luckily, language is also not a problem when it comes to checking out Korea’s theatre scene either. The most popular show in town, Nanta (roughly translated to mean ‘Cooking’) is a non-verbal performance and is so popular with both locals and tourists that it plays in three theatres at the same time. The version playing in Myeongdong is generally thought to be the best and is worth seeking out.

Nanta is a comedy musical that revolves around the art of cooking. The countries fabourite dish, Kimchi, takes several days to create and the ability to do so is highly regarded. Nanta is the longest running show in Korean history having opened in 1997. It made its international debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1999 and was well received, being staged internationally in 18 countries since.

Jump is another popular non-verbal show. A comic martial arts performance, it features some awe-inspiring examples of Korean Tae Kwan Do as well as sword fighting and acrobatics, all wrapped up in a sitcom style story of family loyalty.

For more off the cuff performances and small scale theatre head to Daehango, a long pedestrian street near the University district with a whole host of fringe theatre venues and lively bars. After arriving in the area it won’t take long before you are approached by a student offering inexpensive tickets to some type of performance. Make sure you clarify whether the show is suitable for non-Korean speakers; musical performances or dance may be your best bet here.

If you’re looking for something a little more traditional try heading to Insadong, another pedestrian area famous for its old world style and sense of history. As well as being a great place to try some traditional Korean food and see traditional Korean dress, the area also plays host to a lively music market where impromptu performances are common. Many of the drinking houses in the area will host live music in the evenings too.

A more recent addition to the Seoul performance scene comes from the growing expat community. There are thousands of English language teachers living in Korea and they have colonised the district of Itaewon in the centre of the city and made it their own. The area includes Korea’s only Taco Bell as well and a stretch of Western style bars and restaurants as well as the recently opened White Box Theatre, a dedicated English language theatre near Hyochang Station. There is a varied programme of shows including fringe theatre, music and dance.

Whatever you’re looking for in Seoul, you are bound to find something that will surprise and entertain you. Korea’s art scene is continuing to grown and develop and the international success of shows like Nanta and Jump are sure to encourage similar performances in future.

For more information on cruises to South Korea and things to do when you get there, please call one of our Cruise Experts on 0800 008 6677.